Gabriela de Camargo Gonçalves, Contributing Writer
The November election is approaching, and the organization VCU Votes is encouraging students to make a voting plan, according to the organization’s website.
VCU Votes is a network of VCU students, faculty and staff that promotes voter engagement on campus, according to the organization’s website.
Honors College Senior Associate Dean and VCU Votes Co-Chair Jacqueline Smith-Mason said that VCU Votes primarily supports students on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — all under the same handle of @vcuvotes — to push out general information about the election and events.
Smith-Mason said it is important for students to vote as they have a voice and need to exercise that voice.
“All of us have a role to play in the issues that face us locally, on a statewide level. It’s really important for students to be engaged and consider all the implications of public policy on them,” Smith-Mason said.
The deadline to submit a request for a ballot-by-mail online has passed on Oct. 22. Voters may request an absentee ballot in person until the Oct. 30 deadline. Early voting closes the Saturday before Election Day, on Oct. 30, the Virginia Department of Elections website stated. Ballots can still be returned by mail or dropped off at the Office of the General Registrar main office located at 2134 W. Laburnum Ave., according to the City of Richmond government website.
VCU Votes now focuses on aiding students on a voter plan. Smith-Mason said having a voter plan encourages students to know where they are going to vote, when they are going to vote, if they will have a voting buddy and more.
For Smith-Mason, the main objective of VCU Votes is to promote democracy and especially inspire students to really consider issues they care about.
“My hope is that students have specific issues that they are concerned about, whether that is climate change, affordable health care, the environment and sustainability [and] issues around the protection of the rights of vote,” Smith-Mason said.
Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to the Virginia Department of Elections website. Polling locations are split by precincts. A precinct, or a voting district, is the smallest unit into which electoral districts are divided, and each one has a specific voting location, according to the United States Census Bureau.
VCU will be closed on Election Day to give students the opportunity to vote, stated Dean of Students Reuban Rodriguez in an announcement.
The University Student Commons, located at 907 Floyd Ave., is a polling location available on campus. Students on campus have to check their polling locations, as they change through the voting districts and vary per university housing. Students registered by the Gladding Residence Center dorm address may vote at the Clark Springs Elementary School, at 1101 Dance St., while students living in Brandt, Rhoads and Johnson Halls may vote at the University Student Commons, according to the City of Richmond government website.
The Virginia Department of Elections website states that polling places are defined based on the address of where you got registered to vote, so even though students live on campus, not all are assigned to vote on campus, physically.
Other locations near campus include:
- Arthur Ashe Center – 3017 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
- First Baptist Church – N. Boulevard at Monument Ave. (N. Mulberry entrance)
- VCU Institute for Contemporary Art – 601 W. Broad St.
- Museum of History and Culture – 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
- Tabernacle Baptist Church – 1925 Grove Ave.
- George Washington Carver Elementary School – 1110 W. Leigh St.
- Main Library – 101 E. Franklin St.
The service-learning class VCU Votes Campaign, which works with VCU Votes to coordinate campus-wide voter engagement events, is not occurring this semester because the professor was not available, Smith-Mason said. The class will return next fall.
Fifth-year public relations major student Rebecca Elrod works as an intern for professor Judi Crenshaw, at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Elrod runs VCU Votes’ social media accounts.
“It’s really important that we maintain the voter, and that they can participate in not only the national elections, like the presidential ones, but in local elections and general elections wherever they end up,” Elrod said.
Elrod said she also works with VCU and local organizations, like The Anderson art gallery, to share any voter-related events. Elrod has been working with VCU Votes since the beginning of this fall semester. She said her job mainly consists of content creating for VCU Votes’ social media by making students aware of any necessary political action, and pushing events like tabling to get students registered to vote.
“It’s just really important to get people started out right when they can, and keep them engaged, because we are the new generation of voters and potential political candidates,” Elrod said.